[dropcap type=”4″]C[/dropcap]ristofer Pereyra has been working for the Hispanic community of Phoenix since 2000. More than a year and a half ago, he added championing the Catholic Hispanic community to his résumé as host and producer at En Familia Radio.
Since Sept. 2, the St. Catherine of Siena parishioner can faithfully say that he does both. Pereyra was appointed the new director of Hispanic Mission for the Diocese of Phoenix. He replaces José Robles, who passed away in May of 2013.
Pereyra grew up in Peru, graduated from college in the United States and made his way as a reporter for the Phoenix affiliate of Univision, the Spanish-language television network. He has lived in the Diocese of Phoenix for 14 years and is eager to be a more integral part of it. The transition was a long time coming.
“I was running a business to take care of my family. I was content with it until God started to draw me to the Church,” Pereyra said his second day on the job for the Phoenix Diocese.
He said his professional work as an independent insurance agent became monotonous once he began hosting Catholic programming on En Familia a good 18 months ago — first “C Mayúscula” and now “Punto y Aparte.” The shows offered an increasing amount of airtime to discuss news and issues from the Hispanic Catholic point of view.
“Something happened when I started volunteering at the radio station. I began to get very involved in the Church,” Pereyra said. “I really enjoyed helping evangelize people. I began to think about how I could do this full time, but I couldn’t think of anything.”
Fortunately, a friend could, but the emailed job lead was intended to see if Pereyra knew anyone interested. He did.
Pereyra is technically the first person to hold the title of director for the diocesan Hispanic Mission Office. Previously it was known as the Office of Hispanic Ministry. The name and title change reflects the diocese’s largest growing demographic.
“A person that is dedicated to provide insight into how we best serve and evangelize in this ‘mission’ was needed,” said Dr. Maria Chavira, chancellor for the diocese. “Embedded in the Hispanic culture are the importance of faith, family, hard work and helping those in need.”
She said his areas of focus will include stewardship, church/community relations, communications and serving as an internal resource to the Diocese of Phoenix and individual parishes. Chavira said Pereyra’s background in media communications will also help reach the diverse and growing Hispanic community.
Hispanics account for 40 percent of all U.S. Catholics and 55 percent of Catholics under the age of 30. Those numbers were among the many factors and data released in two studies regarding Latinos and religion in May.
Pereyra is ready to strengthen ties within the Hispanic community — Catholic or not — including consulates which serve as an immigrant’s first resource. To most Hispanics, especially first-generation immigrants, the Catholic faith is very deeply rooted in their DNA, Pereyra said. They respond to questions about their Catholic status with “Of course. What else is there?”
“That gives us a very good foundation to build upon,” Pereyra said. “That could give us an army to evangelize Catholics who have been here awhile and who are away from their faith.”
Pereyra, a father of four children who are 4 to 14 years old, is excited about the future. He meets people daily willing to evangelize and isn’t afraid himself to say hard things. A tagline in the opening promo of his radio show — which he hopes to continue — alludes to that.
“What I am concerned about is so many Hispanics in the diocese who are not practicing their faith fully or not going for the right reasons,” Pereyra said.